The Hanging Tower, Caernarfon


The Hanging Tower, Caernarfon

The tower of the medieval town wall north of the Anglesey Arms is known as the “Hanging Tower”, because convicts were once executed there. The tower is alongside the former jail.

Photo of murderer William MurphyBy the Victorian era, the tower was rarely used for hanging. In 1853 John Roberts was executed there for murdering a youth named Jesse Roberts on a mountain near Conwy. John Roberts claimed in a confession that a Williams Evans paid him 23 shillings to shoot Jesse. Evans was questioned for several hours before magistrates decided the story was yet another fabrication by Roberts.

Next to die in the tower was Amlwch hawker Thomas Jones, aged 35. He had left his wife for his mistress, Mary Bruton. The pair took lodgings in Llan Ffestiniog on 1 March 1898 and went out together that evening. Jones returned alone, and was later convicted of murdering Mary on a nearby mountain.

Portrait of executioner Henry PierrepointThe last person executed at the Hanging Tower was labourer and ex-soldier William Murphy, 42 (pictured right). He had killed his mistress, Gwen Ellen Jones, in Holyhead on Christmas Day 1909. You can read her story on our page about her family home in Bethesda.

Murphy was hanged in February 1910 by Henry Albert Pierrepoint (pictured left), who had become chief hangman in 1901 after offering the Home Office his services. He was paid £10 (c.£1,200 in today’s money) for executing Murphy. His second-class railway ticket to Caernarfon was also covered. Later that year his career ended after he turned up for an execution drunk and fought with his assistant. He had executed over 100 people and invented a strap for “pinioning” one-armed convicts for execution.

Henry’s younger brother Thomas and son Albert were also executioners. Albert executed Rhyl-born Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain.

The tower is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of William Murphy or others hanged there.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce, of The History House, and Richard Jones, of Caernarfon Civic Society. Also to Gwynedd Archives Service, the Daily Post and Wikipedia for the photos

Postcode: LL55 1SG    View Location Map

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